Sea-change in UK Boardrooms

22nd February 2022

Posted In: International Focus

The UK has climbed to second in the international rankings for women’s representation on boards at FTSE 100 level, with new data released today showing nearly 40% of UK FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women, compared with 12.5% just 10 years ago.

The data has been published in a new report by the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review, which monitors women’s representation in 24,000 positions on FTSE 350 Boards and in leadership teams of the UK’s biggest companies, building on the success of the previous Hampton-Alexander and Davies Reviews.

Today’s findings demonstrate a major sea-change in attitudes to getting women leaders to the top table of business in the UK, with women’s board representation increasing in 2021 across the FTSE 100 (39.1%), FTSE 250 (36.8%) and FTSE 350 (37.6%).

The UK has progressed from fifth to second in the international rankings at FTSE 100 level, leapfrogging countries such as Norway, which enforces a mandatory quota system on businesses.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: UK businesses have made enormous progress in recent years to ensure that everyone, whatever their background, can succeed on merit – and today’s findings highlight this with more women at the top table of Britain’s biggest companies than ever before.

UK businesses have also continued to drive progress in their leadership teams in 2021, despite challenges faced in responding to COVID-19. There are over 700 more women in Leadership roles in the FTSE 350 companies this year, increasing women’s representation to 31.5%, an increase of 2% year-on-year.

While there has been remarkable progress at boardroom level, the report also shines a light on areas where there is still more to do.

For example, only 1 in 3 leadership roles and around 25% of all executive committee roles are held by women and there are very few women in the CEO role. Equally, there are still many companies yet to hit the former 33% target set by the Hampton Alexander Review.

UK Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, said: It is excellent to see the progress being made, but we know there is more to be done.

To ensure British companies continue to raise their game and open up opportunities to everyone, today’s FTSE Women Leaders Review report has set out bold new recommendations, including:

•the voluntary target for FTSE 350 Boards and for leadership teams is increased to a minimum of 40% women’s representation by the end of 2025

•FTSE 350 companies to have at least one woman in the Chair, Senior Independent Director role on the Board and/or one woman in the Chief Executive Officer or Finance Director role by the end of 2025

•extending the scope of the FTSE Women Leaders Review beyond FTSE 350 companies to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales

These recommendations aim to increase gender balance further, bringing new focus to the appointment of women at the highest levels of British business, particularly in those companies that are still lagging behind.

Denise Wilson, Chief Executive, FTSE Women Leaders Review said: Today the FTSE Women Leaders Review announces 4 new recommendations for this next stage, which will embed the progress and hard-won gains of the last decade and take business further on the journey to gender balance in the boardroom and in leadership.

We know there is much more work to do and no shortage of experienced, capable women, ambitious for themselves and their company across all sectors of business today. So while we continue to build on progress for women on boards,

we need to firmly shift focus in this next phase to women in leadership roles at the top of the organisation.

The government is also announcing today that KPMG and Lloyds Banking Group will be the corporate sponsors for FTSE Women Leaders Review in this next phase, providing important support to increase the number of women at the top of British business.

The government will appoint new Chairs to the FTSE Women Leaders Review shortly, to lead this next phase over its 4-year span.

See the February 2022 FTSE Women Leaders Review.